Kosovo admitted as 55th member of UEFA, Platini still welcome back

Kosovo has been admitted as the 55th member of UEFA at the 40th congress of the European football confederation in Budapest on Tuesday while banned president Michel Platini could yet be welcomed back.

After a controversial debate, Kosovo won a simple majority vote of the 54 existing members 28-24, with two invalid ballots, to gain admittance.

Neighbouring Serbia, from whom Kosovo declared independence in 2008, was vociferous in leading the opposition but was narrowly defeated.

Kosovo's membership of FIFA is now a formality which could be completed at the world football governing body's congress in Mexico City May 12-13. The team could even be fast-tracked to inclusion in 2018 World Cup qualifying, which begins in September.

Fadil Vokrri, one of the heads of the Kosovo Football Association, had appealed to delegates in Budapest to "give the youth of the country the chance to play football," and to leave the ghosts of the past behind.

In contrast Serbian association chief Tomislav Karadzic warned of impending "turmoil in the region" and pointed out Kosovo was not a country recognized by the United Nations.

A bid to overturn a UEFA statute which says UN recognition is normally required for membership failed to reach the required two-thirds majority but could not prevent Kosovo being accepted.

Earlier Tuesday, UEFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar Llona expressed his hope that banned Platini will soon be able to return to his football duties.

"I hope and wish that Michel will be among us again in a few days," the Spaniard Llona said in his opening address to the congress.

Platini was suspended in October and later banned by world body FIFA for first eight and then six years, in connection with a disloyal payment of 2 million dollars he received from former FIFA boss Joseph Blatter in 2011 for FIFA work done a decade earlier.

But Platini has appealed the FIFA verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and a hearing was conducted Friday. A CAS ruling is expected by May 9 at the latest.

UEFA has maintained it will not begin the process of electing a new president until Platini has exhausted all legal means of proving his innocence but it has also scheduled an urgency meeting of the executive committee for May 18 to deal with the ruling.

Should CAS side with FIFA, a presidential election could possibly take place in mid-September in Athens - around scheduled executive committee meetings - when a third congress of the year appears to be held.

According to acting UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis the September congress is to be called to elect a female member from Europe for the FIFA council.

France's Florence Hardouin was meanwhile surprisingly elected to the UEFA executive committee until 2019 after defeating Norwegian Karen Espelund 33-21. Espelund had been an executive committee member since 2012 but lost out in an election for a position reserved for women for the first time.

And FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the former UEFA general secretary, called on the European associations to show solidarity with poorer countries.

"You have the opportunity to take a lot more money," Infantino said in a speech. "If you do not need all the money that FIFA gives you, then give it to other organizations in the world.

"Then we can make a different FIFA, a FIFA of solidarity."

As part of his election campaign, Infantino promised all 209 FIFA a substantial increase in funding through a 5-million dollar payment.

Last update: Tue, 03/05/2016 - 18:13

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